Review Archive

‘Metta’ from Damian Helliwell - wholly consuming, verging on addictive

(April 28, 2014)

There’s nothing about Damian Helliwell’s album ‘Metta’ that isn’t totally engaging. It's wholly consuming, verging on addictive. This is a distinctive, individual piece of work. Simplistically, it could be Metta frontcoverdescribed as innovative, more eruditely as a multi-dimensional composition that morphs traditional rules while throwing in a freedom to transform and enhance to a degree that leaves the listener engrossed.

Throughout this album there’s a scintillating interplay of instruments. Each alternately soothes into a rich blend or seizes the pace, on the way becoming immersed in the delight of the whole. They revel in their own independence and idiosyncrasy as they vie with their fellows to energise the sound and add to the surrounding flow of rhythm and melody. Considering individual tracks is almost a disservice to the work because the musical progression through the album is so interconnected. There’s more benefit in a straight recommendation to absorb the album as a complete entity from the‘Tadhgan Steps’ to the ‘Awkward Phrase’.  

From the vibrancy of Edinburgh’s traditional music scene to the reflective and inspirational solitude of a Hebridean Island, Helliwell generated a drive of creativity that culminates in ‘Metta’. The decision to use Pythagorean tuning (the frequency ratios of all intervals based on the ratio 3:2) makes consonance almost physical. Alongside Damain Helliwell (mandolin, tenor banjo) on ‘Metta’ are Eilidh Shaw (fiddle) Jen Hill (double bass) Andy Thorburn (piano) and Donald Hay (percussion).

The album was recorded and produced on the Hebridean Island of Eigg (where Damian resides) and releases on the 12th June to celebrate the 17th anniversary of ‘Eigg Independence Day’ - the date of the community ‘buy-out’ of the island.

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Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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